Throwback: Browns Football Misery is Timeless
It’s season-opening Sunday once again in the NFL, and that means a full slate of aerial battles, bone-jarring hits (as long as they’re head’s-up), ankle-breaking jukes and coaches popping a forehead-vein, usually in the postgame presser.
Oh, and renewed heartbreak for Cleveland Browns fans.
I am under few illusions as the promise of a new season calls. When it’s been nearly two years since my team notched a W, the promise is probably more of the same soul-sucking slog.
But we Browns fans wear our misery like an orange hoodie. And bark down the philistines and neophytes (the Seattles, the Carolinas, the Jacksonvilles) with their faux tradition and annoying faces and … yeah, it’s a bitter pill we’ve been continuously swallowing these 20 years since the Browns emerged from extinction in 1999 and the league collectively burped at the unending buffet served up by incompetent ownership, overmatched coaching and whatever chumps we could suit up in pads and collectively ruin.
OK, pass me a beer.
So maybe it helps to look back on a time when heartache was fresh and novel enough that we beat our chests and begged for more. For today’s “Some Time Ago Sunday,” we throw back to the Fall of my second year of college.
A stinking ooze creature called Art Model had fleetingly grown legs and crawled out of the Underworld to assume ownership of the greatest franchise in pro football history (look it up) only to move the Browns to Baltimore, graciously die, descend back to Hades from whence he came and lovingly resume tonguing Satan’s nether regions for all eternity.
Sorry, Mom, but them’s the facts.
Meanwhile, I, a 19-year-old college student, barely qualified to grow a goatee, having bolstered my nascent writing chops with a half semester of Journalism 1 and all of Dave Batry’s oeuvre to that point, waded into the fray to write my first published anything, appearing in Carnegie Mellon University’s Tartan newspaper just before Thanksgiving.
Suitably encouraged, I took four years off — hey, just like the Browns! — to drink beer, date co-eds, and dabble at writing string quartets before emerging as a triple-major, sixth-year senior to land a weekly back-page sports column. But my foray into journalism first started with the article on the Browns below.
In a way, since I would graduate CMU and meet my wife, Katie, at our first jobs as newspaper reporters for the Sandusky Register, I kind of have the Browns’ tragedy to thank for my marriage, my kids, my adult happiness.
Perhaps that’s a fair trade.
So I endure on Sundays. Assured the Browns will always suck, and that regardless of their epic flailings, I will have plenty to write about.
From November 1995: For Cleveland’s Sake, Just Change the Name
There is a special bond between my brother and I these days and it consists of two words: foot and ball.
Okay, so maybe that’s really one word, but to hear some of my uncles say it, peanuts and popcorn streaming out of their mouths, well, you just wouldn’t know.
At any rate, football is something we can get together on, a war cry we can rally behind. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it goes great with potato chips, swiss cheese, and beer. Maybe when we’re 21 well find out just why that’s so great. But until then, we’ve got Tecmo Super Bowl III for that beacon of family warmth and togetherness, the Sega Genesis machine.
Tecmo Super Bowl III is NOT to be confused with Tecmo Super Bowl for the Ninetendo, and especially not with Tecmo Bowl. Tecmo Bowl originated in the stone ages — specifically, 1988 — and mainly consists of a few blobs moving across the screen.
Different-colored blobs stood for different-colored teams, and the closer you got to one giant multi-colored blob, which represented the end zone, the closer you were to getting a touchdown.
It was a high-tech game in its day, but that day is gone. It’s 1995, video game buffs, and that means three control buttons. As opposed to two. See? High-tech!
My brother and I spent hours guiding our respective teams through 19 games in a season to win the Super Bowl. We even wrote down the stats of our players, and one miracle season I got career backup quarterback Mike Pagel to throw for 4,000 yards, 50 touchdowns, and take the Browns to a Super Bowl championship. No small feat, considering he’s probably not thrown for 4,000 yards in his career.
(Forty-two-year-old editor Colt’s note: Actually, M. Pagel amassed just over 7,400 yards thrown in Baltimore and Indianapolis — an odd, accidental tie-in to this column on Cleveland moving to Baltimore — from 1982 through 1985. Rounding out his career in Cleveland and Los Angeles (before the Rams, too, moved — conspiracy theory building here?), Pagel amassed just shy of 2,000 more.)
So, for much of high school, and whenever I go home from college, I’ve pretty much been deluded into this fantasy football world of unending success and Mike Pagel tossing up 90-yard bombs. It’s no small surprise, then, that I was jarred painfully to reality when my hometown Browns announced that they were moving to Baltimore this past week.
Ever since I can remember the men in my family lived and breathed Browns football on Sundays. Heck, my dog even got an extra Milkbone biscuit whenever the Browns won, the same brand of choice that rabid fans in Cleveland Stadium’s Dawg Pound munch on game days.
My dad, brother, and I huddled on the living room couch and watched it all.
1986 — The year the Broncos beat us with a field goal in the AFC Championship after “The Drive” to send the game into overtime.
1987 — The Broncos keeping us out of the big dance once more, augmented by Earnest Byner’s fumble in the end zone.
I can still hear the optimistic strains of the parody sung to the tune of “Louie, Louie:” Bernie, Bernie, oh Lord, how he can throw. Bernie, Bernie, oh Lord, Super Bowl.
Last Days in Cleveland
The last Battle for Ohio against the Bengals looms darkly ahead on December 17, and the last Cleveland-Pittsburgh rivalry will mutate into Baltimore-Pittsburgh after November 26. It seems like those days are now gone forever, stolen by an owner that chose to move the franchise for $50 million rather than keep it in a city that loves the Browns. What is wrong with this picture?
A wise old proverb once stated that “70,000 screaming fans can’t be wrong.” Well, maybe not, but I’m trying to pull out all the stops for my beloved team. This is not Los Angeles, where people would much rather stay at home and practice their lines than go to a Rams or Raiders game. This is Cleveland, home of the Kardiac Kids and the comeback city.
I just can’t envision the Baltimore Browns. AUGH! The name rolls off my tongue like a dead salamander. I can’t say for sure what that actually feels like, but trust me on this one. It hurts.
Next year would have marked the 50th anniversary of the Browns in Cleveland. God, that sounds weird. The Browns in Cleveland. Where else do they belong?
That is why I propose that Baltimore just drop this beloved name entirely. Paul Brown never coached in Baltimore. Name your team Belichick for all I care and dress them in mauve and lime, but let the Browns die in Cleveland if indeed they must die.
Then at least I’ll have a new team to play with in Super Tecmo Bowl. But when technology takes another step forward and they have an ownership mode, don’t bet against me moving the Baltimore Belichicks back to Cleveland. Heck, I wouldn’t be too surprised if I saw Mike Pagel quarterbacking them to another ersatz Super Bowl either.
Colt Foutz is itching to give his new football game a try, if only CMU would cancel classes for the remainder of the year and allow him to.